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Duck with Lavender Honey (Canard au Miel de Lavande)

Duck with Lavender Honey (Canard au Miel de Lavande)
Lavender honey speaks distinctly of Haute Provence and the Drôme, where fields of lavender create shimmering waves on the plateaus. The honey doesn't taste like lavender, but it has its faint aroma. Used in sweets and certainly for tartines, it also makes a fragrant glaze for duck or chicken. Added near the end of the cooking, it quickly lacquers a duck to a deep mahogany, or a chicken to a deep gold. Here, the liver of the duck roasts inside the cavity. Spread it on toasts for eating along with the carved bird.

Ingredients:

  • 4 tsp. fresh lavender blossoms or 2 tsp. dried
      blossoms
  • 2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 tsp. dried
      thyme
  • 2 tsp. fresh winter savory or 1 tsp. dried savory
  • 12 peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 duck, about 5 1/2 lb., with giblets
  • 4 Tbs. lavender, acacia or other strong-flavored
      honey
  • 3 Tbs. red wine

Directions:

Position a rack in the center of an oven and preheat to 350°F.

Using a mortar and pestle or an electric spice grinder, grind together 2 tsp. of the fresh lavender blossoms (or 1 tsp. of the dried), the thyme, winter savory, peppercorns and salt.

Remove all the inner fat and the giblets from the cavity of the duck. Rinse the duck and pat dry. Using a sharp knife, cut crisscrosses through the fat—but not into the meat—of the breast. Rub the duck inside and out with the herb mixture. Replace the liver, heart and gizzard in the cavity. Discard the neck. Place the duck, breast side up, on a rack in a roasting pan.

Roast for 2 hours. Remove from the oven and pour off all but 1 Tbs. of the collected fat from the pan. Spread the duck breast with 2 Tbs. of the honey and return to the oven for 10 minutes more. Once again, remove from the oven and, using a large spoon, baste with the pan juices, now mingled with the honey. Return to the oven and roast for 10 minutes more. Remove the duck again, spread with the remaining 2 Tbs. honey and sprinkle with 1 tsp. of the remaining fresh lavender blossoms (or 1/2 tsp. of the dried). Roast for 10 minutes more, then baste again with the pan juices. Cook for 5 minutes more and remove from the oven. The duck is done when the juices run pinkish clear when the breast is pierced at its thickest part with the tip of a knife, or an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 165°F. The duck skin should be crisp and deeply browned.

Transfer the duck to a platter, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let stand for 10 minutes while you prepare the sauce. Pour off the collected fat, leaving the pan juices, which should measure about 3 Tbs., in the roasting pan. Put the pan over medium heat and add the remaining 1 tsp. fresh lavender blossoms (or 1/2 tsp. dried) and the wine. Deglaze the pan, stirring with a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the pan bottom. Cook until well blended and slightly reduced, 3 to 4 minutes. Keep warm.

Remove the giblets from the duck cavity. Carve the duck, separating the wings, legs and thighs from the body and slicing the breast. Arrange the duck pieces and giblets on a warmed platter. Drizzle with the sauce and serve immediately.
Serves 2 to 4.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Savoring Series, Savoring France, by Georgeanne Brennan (Time-Life Books, 1999).